On Liberty

Contradictions in “On Liberty”: The Weaknesses of Mill’s Pillars of Freedom College

In John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty,” the idea of liberty is examined through a lens that is applicable regardless of form of government. John Mill, son of James Mill, the father of utilitarianism, had a rough childhood that heavily influenced his political ideologies. His harshly studious upbringing revolutionized the way his ideologies were formed, and he was very politically developed from a young age. His work bears the hallmarks of liberal political theory, showcasing individualism, the strong defense of the freedom and rights of the individual, and a strong faith in laws to limit the worst of human behavior. However, his work appears to be riddled with contradictions. His ideas of liberty and the freedom of expression are exclusive. While boasting the right to freedom for all people, Mill’s “On Liberty” limits the extent of freedom to certain classifications of people, political situations, and the intent of man.

Mill defined liberty by separating it into three areas that are seemingly overlapping; for him, liberty was exemplified through a protection of the individual’s rights against tyrannical rulers. The first piece of liberty is that of the “inward domain of consciousness” (Mill 598). This covers the liberty of both...

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